Japanese airlines on Tuesday said they would follow rules set by China when it declared an air control zone over the East China Sea, even as Tokyo said they should ignore them.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) said that since Sunday it has been submitting flight plans to Chinese authorities for any plane that was due to pass through the area. Its affiliate Peach Aviation said it was doing the same “for now”.
Japanese airlines haven’t changed flight paths, but they say they have started notifying China of flights entering the new zone. The affected flights are those to Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as Southeast Asia, depending on the weather.
The announcements came after former flag carrier Japan Airlines said it was complying with demands Beijing set out on Saturday when it said it had established an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) where all aircraft were required to obey its orders.
The zone covers the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands, which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus, where ships and aircraft from the two countries already shadow each other in a dangerous game of cat and mouse.
“We have taken the measures in line with international regulations,” an ANA spokesman said. “Safety is our top priority. We have to avoid any possibility of the worst-case scenario.”
Peach Aviation said it had taken similar steps. “We will continue submitting our flight plans to the Chinese side for now,” a spokesman said.
Transport Minister Akihiro Ota insisted that the Chinese declaration was “not valid at all” and called on Japanese airlines to ignore it.
On Monday, Tokyo called in Beijing’s ambassador to demand a roll-back of the plan which it said would “interfere with freedom of flight over the high seas”, but was rebuffed by Cheng Yonghua, who said Tokyo should retract its “unreasonable demand”.
Under the rules aircraft are expected to provide their flight plan, clearly mark their nationality, and maintain two-way radio communication allowing them to “respond in a timely and accurate manner” to identification inquiries from Chinese authorities.
Australia on Tuesday summoned China’s ambassador to express concern over its imposition of the zone, its foreign ministry said on Wednesday, decrying the move as unhelpful in a region beset by tension.
“The timing and the manner of China’s announcement are unhelpful in light of current regional tensions, and will not contribute to regional stability,” Julie Bishop said in a statement.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday called in China’s ambassador to convey the Australian Government’s concerns and to seek an explanation of China’s intentions.”
The area also includes waters claimed by Taiwan and South Korea, which have also both registered their displeasure at the move.
Additional reporting by Associated Press
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